Scripting News: The Flickr API is a national treasure.

No joke, APIs are real, and are very important.

A picture named sam.gifAnd when a corporate vendor “deprecates” an API we’ve built on, it’s really hard to shrug it off, esp since these changes usually modify the contract between developers and the platform. And it’s very rare that the benefit accrues to the developers. Hey, very often when the API changes our apps are broken and gone, for good.

Recently new life has been pumped into Flickr by Yahoo, something us long-time users are surely glad to see. But — with the new life comes concerns that the API will break. Because that’s what big tech companies do when they move.

It’s particularly important with Flickr because it has been unmoving for so long, which usuallly has a big downside, but it has one huge upside. It means that the API has been stable. Without breakage, we’ve been able to build some very good and useful systems on Flickr. Stuff Yahoo probably doesn’t care about, but we do care about it.

I was looking for a way to express that idea, and it hit me — start a petition on to declare the Flickr API a National Historic Landmark. That’s how neighborhoods in the physical world protect their character from corporate wrecking balls. If we didn’t do this, the city where I live, New York, would have a freeway running down the middle of it. The East Village would only have NYU dorms. There would be no Central Park. And on and on.

The founders of the city of New York were visionaries, and there’s no reason we can’t have vision for the future of the Internet. Let’s make the revitalization of Flickr a complete win. Let’s make sure Yahoo knows we want the API to remain stable, so we can continue to build on it as a platform. We think it’s good business for them, but hey — even if it isn’t — let’s make sure our interests are represented here.

Let’s do something constructive to save some of the DNA of the net. It’s worth it. Sign the petition, now! 🙂


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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